This site is intended for health professionals only

NICE updates guidance on the use of antiviral medicines

The new National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance recommends antiviral medicines Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) to treat seasonal flu in a new and expanded list of at-risk groups, including patients with chronic liver and neurological disease.

This could reduce serious complications and hospitalisations resulting from flu in these at-risk patients.

Importantly, the guidance also recommends that when prescribing antivirals, GPs take into account the patient's preferences regarding drug delivery. Tamiflu is the only oral antiviral recommended for influenza treatment. It is available in a flexible dose range (30, 45 and 75 mg capsules and 12 mg/mL suspension).

The smaller 30 and 45 mg capsules are suitable for dosing in children or those "at-risk" patients who have difficulty swallowing.

In addition, the Tamiflu licence has been recently expanded,  so that in situations where commercially manufactured Tamiflu oral suspension is not readily available, adults, adolescents or children who are unable to swallow capsules may receive appropriate doses of Tamiflu by opening capsules and pouring the contents into a suitable, small amount of sweetened food product. 

"The recent outbreak in this country demonstrated that seasonal influenza still poses a danger to our population's health and the functioning of the NHS", comments Dr John Watkins, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at Cardiff University's department of Primary Care and Public Health.

"I am delighted that the new NICE guidance has expanded the list of at-risk groups for whom antiviral medicines are recommended. Such treatment can reduce the severity of flu symptoms, aid quicker recovery, and reduce the likelihood of hospital admissions, hence reducing demand on an already stretched NHS which often struggles to cope during the winter months".

electronic Medicines Compendium